Lawmakers Push Robocall Legislation

TCPA Connect

Anti-robocall legislation continues to move forward at both the federal and state levels, with the TRACED Act easing through the U.S. Senate by an overwhelming majority and a similar bill making its way through the California Legislature.

In May, the Senate passed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, a measure that would require voice service providers to adopt call authentication technology and would expand the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call on callers that intentionally violate robocall restrictions.

Senate Bill 151 would also direct the FCC to initiate a rulemaking process to help protect subscribers from receiving unwanted calls or texts and allow additional federal regulators (including the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Justice, among others) to bring enforcement actions.

With dozens of senators signed on as co-sponsors along with Sens. John Thune (D-S.D.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who introduced the bill, the TRACED Act passed the Senate by a 97-1 vote and moved on to the House of Representatives for consideration. A companion bill, already pending in the House before the Committee on Energy and Commerce, has garnered support from both Democrats and Republicans.

FCC Chair Ajit Pai issued a statement commending the Senate for passage of the measure. “The TRACED Act would help strengthen the FCC’s ability to combat illegal robocalls, and we would welcome these additional tools to fight this scourge,” he said. “Further powers like increased fines, longer statutes of limitations and removing citation requirements which obligate us to warn some robocallers before penalizing them, will significantly improve our already strong robocall efforts.”

While federal lawmakers have been busy addressing robocalls, California’s legislature has been taking parallel action. The California Senate passed by a 32-5 vote the Consumer Call Protection Act, a bill that would require telecom providers to implement a caller ID authentication system (such as SHAKEN/STIR, the technology favored by the FCC, where phones exchange authentication tokens to verify real numbers are being used) that would flag spoofed numbers.

Oversight would be provided by the state’s Public Utilities Commission, which would be given the authority to work with the California Attorney General’s Office. If enacted, SB 208 would take effect on July 1, 2020.

The measure has moved to the state Assembly for consideration.

To read the TRACED Act, click here.

To read the Consumer Call Protection Act, click here.

Why it matters: With bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and backing from the FCC, there appears to be little standing in the way of passage of the TRACED Act. As for the California legislation, while the inclusion of a deadline in the state bill appears to be intended to spur federal efforts forward, critics argue that implementation of state requirements would add unnecessary complications. “SB 208 will not hasten the process of implementing appropriate and necessary authentication technology,” the CTIA, a trade association for the wireless industry, said in a statement. “It will only divert attention and focus from that task and add a layer of [regulation] that is often obtuse and whose processes are lengthy and, certainly in this case, unnecessary.”